For the course of her PhD project, Diane Austry investigates the foundation of empathy in Primates under the supervision of Dr Zanna Clay at Durham University.
Empathy, the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, is a core feature of what it means to be human. It is central to the human experience, from our social and romantic lives to engaging with our wider political and consumerist society. However, we know little about how our empathy develops early in life, or the extent to which we share such abilities with our closest living relatives, the great apes.
Diane Austry's research has taken her to the miombo woodland in Zambia and Congolese forest, stopping by UK nurseries to investigate how chimpanzees, bonobos and human children experience and respond to the emotions of others. To do so, she analysed post-conflict affiliative behaviours, as well as measured underlying physiological mechanisms using thermal-imaging technology.
Her project aims to extend our knowledge of what it means to be a social and emotional creature in a complex society.